Colors, Dreams, and Gaming
9/23/2010 by: Darleen Hartley
Why when you mix paint colors, you get a dark blob, but the reflection of overlapping stained glass colors appear brighter? There’s a game that teaches you why. It is one of two games released by the Singapore-MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] GAMBIT Game Lab as part of its summer program. Poikilia tackles the concepts of additive and subtractive color theory. Players collect or discard colored torches to achieve the right combination of colors to advance through gates.
Poikilia, a puzzle game, offers an optional narrative story. It is an adventure that takes the player through 24 chambers of a labyrinth beneath an ancient lighthouse. Carrying fire from the lighthouse, you must manipulate the color of the flames to guide your avatar to each doorway to reach safety. In the process, you experience color theory by seeing how colors behave. Researchers will study whether either the narrative or non-narrative form of the game is more effective in promoting student engagement with, and understanding of, the subject matter.
The product’s owner Jason Haas says that although color theory is taught in Massachusetts elementary schools, he contends that most people have no clue. He explains the research surrounding narrative in learning games is "to see if the story of the game helps players overcome naive conceptions on the topic in order to better facilitate the transfer of knowledge to their lives outside the game," Poikilia has no time constraints, nor "dire consequences of failure," therefore players can experiment until they reach a breakthrough moment, allowing them to develop reasoning skills.
The Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab is a collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the government of Singapore. It was created to explore new directions for the development of games as a medium. Timothy Tan, an interactive media design major at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University was the assistant producer of Poikilia. Regarding his summer experience at MIT, he says he was humbled and inspired. "I've learnt how to communicate to the team more effectively and, importantly, how to balance between the needs of the team and the end product that we were striving for." He "enjoyed the intellectual climate" the team worked within.
Describing his team’s work ethic, Haas said: "No fuss, no drama – just creative, diligently produced results. I'm Facebook friends with many of them now, but I do sincerely miss working with them - 8 weeks was too short."
A second GAMBIT game was released this week called Afterland. This learning game explores how players adapt to, or become frustrated by, game elements that thwart their expectations for the game’s rules or goals. This experimentation with recursive learning processes has implications for teachers. Another visiting scholar, Konstantin Mitgutsch, is the product owner. His opinion is that "overcoming unreflected judgments and expectations is a core activity in every learning process." His game encourages the player to do just that: "overcome their unreflected judgments, which is a tricky form of learning".
Afterland players perform in a world out of time. A reclusive forest-dweller has a penchant for collecting. The discovery of a barely decipherable ancient parchment sets you on a journey to help him collect fascinating artifacts. In the process, he finds fulfillment and inner peace.
Poikilia requires Adobe Flash Player 10.1. The following is recommended: Windows [7, Vista, XP Home, XP Pro], or a Mac, both with Intel Core 2 Duo 2.33GHz [or equivalent], 3GB of RAM.
Each summer at GAMBIT, interns from the Boston area and from Singapore work together on development teams to create prototype games which demonstrate concepts based on accepted research topic proposals. Each team must create a 5-30 minute polished game play experience which demonstrates or explores a research topic. In addition, the game must target
Play Summer Games by MIT
Other GAMBIT Summer Program games are also available to play for free on the website. They have various purposes. Symon, for example, introduces procedurally generated puzzles and game-spaces requiring the player to think differently. You must work outside the boundaries of conventional adventure game logic. It takes place inside the dreams of a paralyzed patient. The puzzles try to reproduce the odd logic of dreams, where things make sense, but not quite. We are told this game runs best in Google Chrome.
Google Chrome, Symon, GAMBIT, MIT, Adobe Flash, Windows, Mac, Intel, Afterland, Poikilia, games, color theory, Singapore, Jason Haas, Timothy Tan, Boston, Nanyang Technological University, Konstantin Mitgutsch, recursive learning
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